Momofuku Nishi

gou232 8th Ave.  New York, NY 10011 • (646) 518-1919 • momofuku.com

David Chang is a master of the impossible, so it only makes sense that he would create a veggie burger that tastes imperceptibly close to its meaty alternative, hence the name Impossible Burger (pictured). It is deception on a bun. Edible hocus pocus. The patty made predominantly from soy bean, it somehow even takes on the texture of meat.

As for the burger itself, it’s only amazing that it’s vegetarian. But as a burger itself, it’s just okay, coming off more like your classic simple cheeseburger (granted the new version now has truffle mayo and gouda) that isn’t as good as other veggie burgers like the Gouchujong at Cinnamon Snail or meat burgers like the Shack Stack at Shake Shack, The Bash Burger at B&B or my personal fav, The Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern.

Beyond the novelty of the burger, however, Nishi is very hit and miss. The kimchi is just okay as is the beet salad with avocado and a dusting of nuts.

The only other hit you can chew would be the pistachio bundt cake for dessert. It’s far from epic, but it’s a solid choice if you want to end things on a sweet note.

That said, if you really want a hit, do yourself a Gin & Julius to drink. It’s like an alcoholic creamsicle. It’s also like really friggin’ yum and after two or three you won’t have your mind on your money or your mind.

John Doe

253 5th Ave. New York, NY 10001 • (646) 882-4007johndoenyc.com

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To start, I’d like to begin by stating that John kicks Lulu’s ass. Located in the former space as Lulu & Me (RIP-ish), John Doe has come to take its place with a somewhat similar offering… on paper, that is. In terms of flavor, however, I am happy to report that the 2.0 update comes with a host of new features such as better service, better décor and better food.

As for that all-important last update, let’s start with the popcorn shrimp, which was one of the better ones I’ve ever had, primarily because you can actually taste the shrimp. Normally I feel like the shrimp-to-breading ratio is always so far off that all you are eating is a fried wad of batter, but not these. They’re plump, tasty and shrimpy. Served with a spicy cayenne remoulade that make these shrimp a huge hit. Down it with a refreshing John Doe Ale and you’ll be halfway to happy.

For my entrée I went with the Jane Doe, which is the veggie burger version of the meat-based John Doe burger. Jane is made with brown rice, yellow bell peppers and beets, giving her patty a slightly red hue, topped with avocado, aged cheddar and red pepper aioli then served on a pretzel roll. It’s no Gochujang Burger from Cinnamon Snail, but it held its own. Especially with the addition of Dijon. Also, I think I might have been a bit spoiled having just come off of that insanely good duck and foie gras burger at Élan. So how could a veggie burger even hope to compare?

Don’t judge, because when I mention what we ordered for dessert I fear that some of you might find issue with it, particularly the wife. In my defense, though, there is only one option for dessert and we did split it four ways. Okay, I’ll dispense with the stalling… We had the deep fried Oreos with vanilla ice cream. Yes, a deep fried cookie with ice cream on top, because a regular cookie is just WAY too healthy. Now obviously it wasn’t bad, cuz duh, it’s a deep fried Oreo cookie with ice cream. But to be fair, it wasn’t exactly worth it either. I mean going in the expectations are SO incredibly high (as is the guilt) that there is a lot to compensate for and sadly the Oreos fall short, netting out a touch soggy and nowhere near worth the year they probably just took off my life. John Doe, however, is well-worth the trip. It’s not quite up there with some of the 4 and 5 knifers in the hood, but three is pretty respectable in my book.

3 teeth

5 Napkin Burger

211 Market St. Yonkers, NY 10710 • (212) 496-20315napkin.com

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If you’re doing the Ridge Hill thing and you find yourself (and/or family) craving a burger joint, you now have two options to choose from. Elevation and 5 Napkin. And while that is technically true, as far as I’m concerned you still have zero options, and you’re better off driving to White Plains for 5 Guys or Westchester Burger Co. (the Napa Burger blows this place away).

That said, 5 Napkin is better than Elevation, but unfortunately that’s not saying much. And speaking of not saying much, I don’t have many compliments in store for 5 Napkin, so if you’re a fan, start warming up your rebuttal.

The décor, as others have stated, is casual, yet cool (probably the best thing about this place) and the service, as pointed out by many, is slow. Granted not quite as bad as the rap made it out to be, but certainly not about to break any land-speed records either.

On the burger front, they most definitely live up to their name, proving to be a complete and total mess. Unfortunately that’s also true on a culinary level. The Original Burger is over sauced to the point of greasy and off-putting, and the patty itself was served rare as opposed to medium rare, as ordered.

The veggie burger was better, made with an unusually predominate beet ratio, turning the patty a novel shade of red. On the downside, the bun they use is way too dense for the softer patty and it winds up squeezing out through the sides every time you bite into it, like pink Playdoh in a garlic press.

The French fries that come with the burgers are basic and nothing to speak of, so if you were hoping for twist in plot, sadly this story is only one note. I do, however, recommend substituting the fries with the cheddar tots. They are slightly better. But, if you want truly great tots, head over to Melts in Armonk. And while you’re at it, try their Wisconsin Patty Melt too. You will be very pleasantly surprised. It’s one of the better under-the-radar “burgers” in Westchester.

And while some people might think I’m just getting my jollies throwing places like this under the bus, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I just don’t like when things are misrepresented on Yelp, so I feel the need to be the balancing wheel. Even if it stings. And sting this did, because I was sincerely looking forward to this place opening up, but sadly, I have to give 5 Napkin just two knives.

2 teeth

Blanche’s Cafe

655 Madison Ave. New York, NY 10065 • (646) 919-4634

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Not that people still shop Donna Karan like they used to, but regardless, this is a nice little hidden gem upstairs inside the DKNY shop on Madison Avenue and unless you are willing to endure the cost, not to mention the wait, at Fred’s at the top of Barney’s, this is really one of the best things going in terms of affordable nourishment amidst the posh midtown shopping scene.

Everything is organic, vegetarian and delicious. From her incredible Peach smoothie to the veggie burger salad or sandwich- in either form it’s way good. But easy good. Nothing you couldn’t source from a Whole Foods and whip up yourself in about 10 minutes, but that’s also tough to do when you are knee deep in your dressing room, surrounded by shopping bags and you get the growlies. Are you gonna run back home and whip up lunch? No. No you’re not. So for an in-store beacon of convenience,  I highly recommend this oasis as a great pit stop during a grueling NYC shopping spree.

3 teeth

EJ’s Luncheonette

1271 3rd Ave. New York, NY 10021(212) 472-0600ejsluncheonette.com

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At one time EJ’s was a solid go-to for diner food at locations all around the city. Sporting one of the better veggie burgers (topped with guac and sprouts) in town and a respectable brunch that had people enduring two hour waits. This is no longer that time. In fact, even back in its hay day I was truthfully unimpressed, baffled by those willing to stand in line for such mediocrity when truly great diner food was only a few blocks up at Googies (RIP). But to give a currently open reference for comparison, it’s on par with Jackson Hole Diners and Stardust. Maybe a quarter of a notch above a Denny’s. Harsh? Perhaps. But truth be truth and there are literally 1000 better places for breakfast/brunch in the city, about 2000 better options for lunch and given adequate time I will eventually have all of them reviewed and posted for your perusal. But in the meantime, please go on trust and do as the police say at a crime scene, which this sort of is, “Keep walking. Nothing to see here!”

If, however, you are a glutton for punishment and are too squeamish to take up cutting, then by all means, enjoy everything from bogus burgers to pedestrian pancakes and forgettable French toast. In fact, not even the veggie burger is what it used to be. Which will go perfectly with your new regimen of self torture.

2 teeth

Cinnamon Snail

Chelsea, Midtown West- New York, NY 10001 (862) 246-6431cinnamonsnail.com

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It’s pretty rare to see something get a FULL 5 stars on Yelp. And even more rare when there are over 400 reviews to back it up. Well, here are five knives to go with them.

Granted I was VERY skeptical the first time I stood there in line, but as soon as I got a peek through that window at one of their Gouchujang Burgers (pictured), my skepticism was washed away by a tidal wave of salivating anticipation.

This burger, topped with kimchi and sriracha, is a spice lover’s dream! And as far as veggie burgers go, easily the best I’ve ever had in my life. By a wide margin. And man is it filling. You won’t even miss the beefy absence for a second. Even the bun is exquisite. Just awesome.

But a one trick pony they are not. The maple pecan rice crispy treats are also killer! Probably the best rice crispy treat I’ve ever had.

There are few misses however. Their créme brulée donut pales in comparison to The Doughnut Plant. And while some of their other sandwiches are solid, nothing is at the level of the burger. Also, one small gripe. They charge $3.00 for squirt of lemonade that is essentially served in a small coffee cup. One of the cheapest beverages to make on the face of the Earth. That said, it wasn’t bad, but definitely not worth the money.

Consequently, I’d gladly pay double for the burger, because it is THAT good.

5 teeth

Mariani Gardens Café

Mariani Gardens • 45 Bedford Rd. Armonk, NY 10504(914) 273-3083 • marianigardens.com/about_cafe.asp

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The location is a touch odd, in the midst of a nursery and outdoor furniture store, but somehow it works, probably because it’s a VERY high end nursery and outdoor furniture store, and thus the setting, while casual, is very nice.

The high end-ness bites both ways, however, as the prices are even higher end, and I’m not just talking about the furniture.

For lunch, for four people, no appetizers, no dessert, no sides, and only three drinks (non-alcoholic) it was about $75. And we’re talking salads and hotdog/burger. No lobster salad. Just vegetables. No foie gras or veal burger (it was veggie). Drinks were nothing special either. No fresh squeezed juices or smoothies. Just Diet Coke and lemonades.

So, the big question is, was it worth the ridiculous price? Not even close! Everything was as mediocre as it gets. The best of the lot was the beet salad with goat cheese, but that’s not saying much. The worst of the lot was the French lentil salad with “spicy” walnuts. I’m not sure what passes as spicy these days, but whatever it is, they forgot to put it on those walnuts. At least the portions were big, but what good is it if those portions taste like balsa wood?

Now I can only imagine the place is trying to compensate for the rent. Or the fact that the only people buying plants and furniture from them are the .0001%. But I don’t think I should be the one subsidizing their lifestyle. Either up your game or I will be taking my business elsewhere from now on. For example right up the street, Melts crushes this place. Or Fortina. Hell, I’d rather grab a sandwich from the deli in DeCicco’s.

Sorry to be so harsh Mariani, but as a nursery, you of all places should know, you reap what you sow.

2 teeth

 

Greensquare Tavern

5 W 21st St. New York, NY 10010 • (212) 929-2468 • greensquaretavern.com
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To say that this place is “amazing,” as many people state, is a bit of a reach. It is, however, very solid. Probably worth 3.5 kinves in truth. Mostly for the blondie, which is the best I’ve ever had, but that’s leap-frogging straight to dessert, so let’s back up and talk a few other dishes first.

The veggie burger is strong. Hearty. Not the kind that makes you feel like you are compromising. Not quite at the level of Cinnamon Snail’s, but definitely in the upper stratosphere of veggie burger glory.

Unfortunately, the grilled cheese (pictured) doesn’t reach the same heights. In fact, there’s a very good chance that you make a better one at home. And as for the Iced tea, it’s a tad too floral for my tastes, but if you like drinking bouquets, your ship just came in.

As for my ship, the blondie, as previous stated is a moral imperative. Basically a giant, moist chocolate chip cookie in brick form. And an Ultimate as you may have guessed.

As for other factors, Greensquare has a nice, quaint, simple decor and service is okay.

So all in, I’m always happy to go back, but I’m also not rushing.

3 teeth

Ox Wine & Burger Bar

Kumbahce Mah., Cumhuriyet Cad. No:155 Bodrum, Turkey • +90 532 356 7652 • www.oxburgerbar.com
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The BaconChevre is the bok (shit). Rivals most burgers back in the states. Decked out with goat cheese as the name implies. Pancetta, sort of like the name implies. And caramelized onions. The bun is soft and a touch sweet almost like a brioche or potato bread and together with an ice cold Efes (Turkish Beer) and you’d be hard-pressed to keep your fast going through Ramadan.

Other burgers there also range from okay to great depending. The Cheddarburger being on the higher end of that range and the Truffle burger being at the okay-er end. Yes, the most expensive burger on the menu is a big pass if you ask lil’ ole me. There are much better, much cheaper options.

They also have ox, chicken and veggie burgers, none of which I’ve tried. Fries and pickles make for passable sides. But one condiment you don’t want to miss is the spicy Turkish brown mustard. Gulden’s shmuldens.

Also, between my first and second visits they have opened tables on the beach, which at sunset offer a beautiful view as the sun dips behind the castle.

Service is also very friendly and accommodating and English speaking, which is a plus for semi-Turks such as myself.

4 teeth

Umami Burger

500 Broadway Santa Monica, CA 90401(310) 451-1300umamiburger.com

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At first I didn’t get it. I mean one bite of their veggie burger and you will most likely exclaim the same baffled response as I did, “What is all the hype about?!”

Granted, I didn’t have any of the meat burgers, but that veggie burger was pretty lame. Mushy and tasted a bit like dog food. I also had the smushed potatoes because they looked good at the table next to me. Unfortunately they were about as flavorless as the burlap sack they once came in.

On a positive note, the presentation is good. But with In and Out is just minutes away down Lincoln I wasn’t about to rush back. Fortunately a friend convinced me to give it a second go on one the meat burgers, so I rolled the dice.

Yahtzee! Okay, so I was wrong. Well, sort of. I still standby the fact that everything I had that first visit was indeed shameful, but what I ordered that time was also miserably wrong.

This time I went with the Truffle burger and the sweet potato fries and both were VERY good. As was the pickled plate (an assortment of, you guessed it, all things pickled). Also, they had one of my favorite beers on tap, Allagash White. So, I guess we learned a lesson today, Umami and I… That everyone, even burger places, deserve a second chance.

3 teeth